By Taylor Martin | March 27, 2013 7:00 AM
When Apple first announced the iPhone and revealed iOS to the world, it was truly groundbreaking and innovative stuff. And the flood gates were opened when App Store was finally introduced. Now with over 800,000 applications at every iOS user’s disposal and 26.9 percent global smartphone market share, the operating system is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
That said, it’s no secret that iOS is showing its age, and it might even be slipping in mind share.
Apple has released a major point update every year since 2007, currently bringing the OS to iOS 6. Each of these major point updates have brought many refinements to the platform over the last six years. For example, iOS 6 boasted over 200 new features. But the brunt of these “new features” went unnoticed.
What was impossible to overlook, however, was the absence of seriously compelling changes, improvements, interface refinements and true innovation. It’s 2013, Android manufacturers are innovating circles around Apple and Google is packing new, useful features in Android with every update – major and minor.
It’s high time Apple brings iOS up to speed and gives Android some true competition once again. Below are some features that will make iOS a threat once again.
With my Android devices, I can share virtually any content from within any application to any other application. For example, if I view a picture in the Gallery app, I can share it to Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Drive, Gmail, MMS, Picasa or any other application that accepts photos without ever having to leave Gallery.
On iOS, the only sharing options from within Photos are: Mail, Messages, Twitter, Facebook and Print. You can also assign it to a contact, use it as a wallpaper or copy the image. But to share a photo with any other application, you will have to navigate to that application and share it from within.
Another example is sharing from within the browser. To share a link to a social network that is not integrated with iOS (Google+), you have to either use the Chrome browser or copy the link and share from within Google+. The only way an application can share to a non-integrated service from within an application is by physically coding support for the application in, such as how Camera+ or Snapseed do.
By integrating different social networks, Apple has slowly added interoperability. But it’s no comparison to how simple it is to share content between applications on Android. This is one feature that iOS advocates around the Web have been dying for.
Ability to set third-party apps as default
With over 800,000 applications available to users, it’s not uncommon for third-party options to outweigh the stock offerings.
Most notably, the Maps.app that was introduced with iOS 6 has had its fair share of ridicule. Compared to Google-powered maps from the past, Apple’s own mapping application lacks important details and vital accuracy. Tim Cook apologized for releasing a sub-par application and suggested users look into some alternatives. Weeks later, Google introduced the standalone Google Maps app, which is better than the old, integrated version and Apple’s own maps. Best of all, it’s free.
I can’t remember the last time I opened the official Maps.app (on purpose). I have turned to Google Maps for all my navigation needs. However, by clicking an address link, Apple’s Maps app is opened. Likewise, if I click a Web URL, Safari is opened, even though I prefer Chrome. I cannot open Camera+ from the lock screen instead of the stock Camera app. The list goes on.
This can be solved by jailbreaking, but there’s no reason Apple shouldn’t open this ability up to its users, aside from arrogance, of course.
A major missed opportunity on Apple’s part, though, is in its keyboard. There is no option to replace the keyboard with a third-party option, and Apple is missing massive innovations in text entry, such as word prediction, gesture typing and even innovative concepts like Minuum.
Better Notification Center
In iOS 5, Apple introduced Notification Center, a centralized location for incoming notifications, not unlike the notification shade on Android. Simply pull down from the top of the display and all recent and missed notifications are aggregated into a long list of data.
With iOS 6 came Facebook and Twitter buttons, allowing users to update their Facebook status or tweet directly from Notification Center. It also has weather and stocks on the iPhone and iPod versions.
The problem is that it doesn’t seem to sync up with notifications elsewhere. For instance, badge notifications on application icons and the number of Notification Center notifications you have for that particular aren’t always equal. Or you can clear all grouped notifications in Notification Center by tapping the (microscopic) X buttons on the top right of a group of notifications. Yet the badge notification on the app icon will remain.
Not to mention, there is no way to know what’s in Notification Center – or that there’s anything in there at all – without pulling the shade down. After a year and a half with Notification Center, I can count the number of times I have actually used it on one hand. It’s virtually useless, but it has potential to be so much better.
Refined home screen experience
The interface itself has hardly changed since iOS 1.0. Apple has added the ability to set wallpapers on the home and lock screens, group application icons into folders and a task switcher menu. In terms of interface and operation, these are, unfortunately, the most notable updates.
While many fans claim to be just fine with the drab wall of icons, just as many – if not more – have begged Apple for a new interface for years.
Sure, it works just fine. But it’s antiquated, and in need of a face-lift. And it doesn’t have to be an Android copy with widgets, live wallpapers or other battery-hogging elements. Something as simple as a user-definable icon arrangement (instead of the left-to-right, top-to-bottom auto-arrangement) would be nice. But with Ubuntu Touch, BlackBerry 10, Jolla, Android 4.2 and Windows Phone 8 around, all of which are vastly different in looks and operation, it’s high time for Apple to bring iOS into the modern age of user interface and user experience.
For what it’s worth, it looks like Apple may be killing the skeuomorphism (leather, felt, linen and other pointless interface elements) in iOS 7, making it more adhere to a more “flat design“, according to Jony Ive.
It also wouldn’t hurt for Apple to make the Settings app a little less convoluted and cluttered.
Lastly, Apple announced Siri alongside the iPhone 4S. For those unaware, Siri was not an Apple creation, however. Apple acquired the company back in 2010. In 2011, Siri resurfaced, integrated into the core experience of iOS.
But Apple has a way of imposing its will on the ‘wares. Woz spoke out last summer, claiming Apple made a mess of Siri, that the service had been dumbed down and was much smarter and more impressive before becoming part of Apple.
No less, Siri was one of the more impressive additions to iOS 5. And it later got steamrolled by Google Now, which is more than just a snarky, voice-controlled assistant. Now is a context-aware, automated concierge, butler, search assistant and so much more.
Like Notification Center, Siri has potential. But rather than adding more parlor tricks, Apple needs to get serious and add some automation and jaw-dropping features to Siri in iOS 7.
Got some features you would like to see in iOS 7? Totally disagree with me? Sound off in the comments below!